The Louisiana House has passed its proposed budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year. Traditionally known as House Bill 1 (or HB1), the bill is now on its way to the Louisiana Senate. This action is the Constitutionally mandated first step in the legislative process of passing a final budget, one that we can only hope will spend money which is actually available and force state government to live within its means.
All and sundry know full well that HB1 will be revised in the Senate and the final version must be approved by both chambers before it can be sent to the Governor for action. Yet John Bel Edwards immediately assailed the House budget for being so miserly that it would (allegedly) force the shutdown of hospitals, the cancellation of home care programs, and cause irretrievable damage to higher education in Louisiana. (At this point we should remind our readers that this is the same Governor who until a few short days ago maintained that the “fiscal cliff” was far higher than it actually was, in order to alarm the voting public and justify a massive and as it turns out, largely unnecessary tax increase.) He went on to unhelpfully proclaim that the Senate could not fix the budget presented by the House, preferring to sabotage HB1 so that the difficult battle to pass a budget could be fought all over again in the upcoming special session.
Indeed, the Governor is in an unbecoming hurry to entirely shut down this regular session of the legislature, because state law forbids the raising of taxes in regular sessions in even numbered years. Although he evaded this law in 2016 and will do so once again in 2018 by calling special sessions wherein taxes can be raised, in the meantime any legislature which cannot raise taxes is obviously of no use to him whatsoever. He has long since reneged on his explicit and frequently repeated campaign promises to the people of Louisiana that he would not raise their taxes but would cut wasteful government spending.
The remaining weeks of this regular session could be gainfully utilized in cutting government waste, prioritizing spending cuts to make them more palatable and effective, and revisiting the hundreds of statutory dedications currently exempt from the budget. These actions would further reduce the fiscal cliff and minimize the need for new taxes, but efficient and responsible government is not what John Bel Edwards is all about.
What certainly could be accomplished in this regular session is the passing of a budget by the Louisiana legislature, exactly as was intended by the framers of our Constitution. The legislature could then have a budget to work from and could begin to identify any specific areas which required fiscal adjustments, without revisiting the difficult and painful budgeting process all over again. We hope that our entire Republican delegation in the legislature can work towards this goal, along with the near extinct breed of fiscally responsible Democrats which may still occasionally be found within the Capitol’s environs.
Louis Gurvich, Chairman Republican Party of Louisiana